Foot and ankle injuries are common among athletes and those who exercise frequently. Most of these injuries are non-life-threatening and can heal in weeks with proper treatment and care. Serious injuries, however, such as foot or ankle fractures, require urgent medical treatment.
Common minor injuries include ankle sprains, ankle strains, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and turf toe. An ankle sprain is when the ligaments in the ankle have either become stretched or torn. When the muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, it is an ankle strain. When the big toe is sprained, it is known as turf toe. Achilles tendonitis is the overuse and inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia and generally occurs from overuse in athletics. Stress fractures are also caused from overuse and are small cracks in the bone.
Achilles tendon ruptures are common, but more serious. This injury occurs when the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, ruptures. In most cases, this causes severe pain and difficulty walking; some who have experienced this injury have reported, however, no signs or symptoms. A laceration is a deep cut that can occur anywhere on the body. Lacerations on the foot are rarer but can occur from things like metal cleats landing on the foot. A foot or ankle fracture occur if the foot or ankle experiences trauma from a fall or obvious impact to the area. Fractures can also occur because of increased stress on the bone over time.
Treatment options cover a wide range of methods based upon the injury and its severity. Conditions like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, turf toe and ankle sprains/strains can heal on their own without immediate medical care but seeing a podiatrist to monitor the injury is always recommended. Following the RICE (Rest, Icing, Compression, and Elevation) protocol is generally enough to treat minor injuries. This means resting the foot by either keeping pressure off the foot or not walking at all. Icing the injury will help reduce swelling and pain. Compressing the injured area with a wrap will immobilize and help promote healing. Keeping the foot elevated will also reduce swelling and help the healing process.
It is important to note that even minor injuries can vary in severity. Achilles tendon ruptures, lacerations on the foot, and foot or ankle fractures generally require urgent medical care and more intensive treatment from a podiatrist. These could include imaging tests, stitches for cuts, surgery, rehabilitation, and casts or braces. Every case is different, however, so it is always recommended to see your podiatrist when pain in the foot does not disappear.